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How to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

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10 December 2012 by Alex Stewart

As winter wonderlands go, few are more bewitching than Iceland. The rugged landscapes, active volcanoes, breathtaking glaciers and other dramatic features are even more spectacular when bathed in the mysterious, multicoloured glow of the Northern Lights.

The Northern Lights can be seen in Iceland from as early as August until early May, but in order to see them, it has to be dark and the sky has to be clear of clouds. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't have to be cold to be able to see the Northern Lights. You do still need a little luck though.

Improve your chances by visiting during the winter months from October to March, which are all good times to travel. During these months the dark hours certainly aren't in short supply! Generally though the best time to see the aurora is between 11pm and 2am but it is not uncommon to see them as early as 7pm and as late as 9am! Remember though to try and pick travel dates that don't coincide with a full moon and aim to stay as far from settlements and light pollution as possible. Give yourself the best chance by going for as many nights as you have spare and consider visiting more than one location.

Best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

Hotel Ranga

Hotel Ranga Northern lights display iceland

It is said that Northern Lights sightings are more likely near glaciers, which is why Hotel Ranga on the South Coast near Mýrdalsjökull Glacier is a perfect base for aurora hunting. The Sunday Times Travel Magazine said that Ranga is, "one of the best places in the entire world to see the aurora" and we totally agree. This countryside retreat is a real Icelandic gem. The hotel sits by the Ranga River, in a rural area where there's no light pollution or artificial lights. The hotel is built in a log cabin, chalet style and has got a well-known restaurant and cosy bar.

Ranga also offers an 'aurora wake up' service, which you can sign up to when checking in. The reception and staff will keep an eye on the sky and, if the Northern Lights appear, will call you during the night so that you don't miss this natural phenomenon. The hotel also has outdoor hot tubs so those who'd like to sip champagne whilst soaking up the experience, can do so. There are also great activities available from Ranga, such as a Super Jeep expedition to Thorsmork and horseback riding.
Stay at Hotel Ranga

Hotel Ion

Hotel Ion Northern Lights display Iceland

One of the most exciting hotel openings in 2013 is set to be the luxury 4-star Hotel Ion, on Lake Thingvallavatn, Iceland's largest lake. Located near the Golden Circle route, this hotel opens its doors in mid-January.

Hotel Ion is set to become one of the finest country retreats in Iceland and its location in the heart of a UNESCO-listed national park makes it a great base for both searching out the Northern Lights and connecting with the wild surroundings. Given easy access to hot springs, glaciers and the Northern Lights, guests will be able to enjoy fire and ice ina  stylish, friendly space.
Stay at Hotel Ion

Hotel Myvatn

Lake Myvatn Northern Lights display Iceland

Lake Myvatn, a calm, shallow expanse in Iceland is another one of the best places in the world to view the magical Northern Lights.

Located in the far north, close to the Arctic Circle, it's often frozen; it's also an area of outstanding natural beauty where you can discover the wonders of the Icelandic winter landscape. Multi-coloured mud pools, giant craters and still-smouldering eruption debris competes for your attention although the literal highlights of a visit here are the Northern Lights themselves.
Stay at Hotel Myvatn

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